Local democracy think tank, LGiU, today published an evaluation of Lambeth Council’s new approach to improving the local neighbourhood.
Instead of asking residents “do you support this proposal”, Lambeth wanted to ask residents “what would you like to see in this area?” The approach places local citizens in the driving seat and shows how Lambeth Council is seeking to put co-operative principles into practice.
The publication explores both the challenges and opportunities of this approach by considering three local projects: the Neighbourhood Enhancement Programme, Van Gogh Walk and the Loughborough Junction Plan.
The local projects vary according to geography, timescale and budget but each initiative shares the aspiration of reconfiguring the relationship between the council and local residents.
The evaluation draws together some broad, practical tips for councils similarly interested in placing a community engagement programme at the centre of council delivery:
- The vital role of the councillor can play, acting as a local champion to drive local engagement and ensure inclusion of everyone’s views.
- The importance of understanding your civic infrastructure – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel – make sure you engage with the existing social and cultural networks in your community.
- Be prepared to challenge council culture – a co-production strategy involves the council fundamentally reconceiving its role. Not everyone will necessarily believe in this idea as workable so be prepared to campaign for change.
- Get the language right – to engage with residents effectively, it is really important to think about your communications effectively and avoid using council jargon.
- Involve local stakeholders – To get the best outcomes we all need to work together. This means bringing together the different sectors and organisations from across the community – local schools, local charities, local businesses and local faith groups.
- Be prepared to take risks – taking risks anddealing with controversy is inherent in a co-production strategy. Handing over the decision-making process to the public will result in ideas you may not necessarily have even considered, but the process allows for deliberation and consideration.
- Access to technical advice – access to advice and technical information will be crucial to taking these risks and trying new things.
- Be clear about the budget and the timeline – this is important not only from your own perspective for planning capacity and funds, but also to ensure conversations progress and recommendations are reasonable. However, plans also can and should be adaptable.
Commenting on the publication, Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of LGiU, said:
“At a time when local government faces an unprecedented set of challenges, including severe financial pressures, an ageing population and a need to adapt to climate change, we know that radical transformation of local government is required. We know that harnessing the knowledge of residents and local networks of innovation will be critical to meet these challenges. It will be vital for the state, the private sector and voluntary sector to work creatively and collaboratively together.
“This won’t be easy, but through our evaluation of these local Lambeth projects – we can start to map out and understand what the council’s evolving role might look like: a role where the council moves away from doing things, to making things happen; a role where the council moves away from taking local decisions to one where the council acts as a catalyst for the community making its own decisions.”
Cllr Jack Hopkins, Cabinet Member for Jobs and Growth (former Cabinet Member for Safer and Stronger Communities), Lambeth Council, said:
“Being bold and trusting the public is an absolute must if local government is going to adapt and survive to the modern world, and no one can steer this course at a local level better than the local Councillor. We didn’t know that the Neighbourhood Enhancement Programme was going to work out as well as it did, but we made sure we were flexible and responsive, whilst sticking to the principles of cooperative council and ensuring people we able to work together as genuine partners.”
Notes for Editors
For press enquiries, please contact Lizzie Greenhalgh, LGiU Policy Researcher, on 0207 554 2800.
The full publication is available here: https://lgiu.org/people-shaped-places/
LGiU (Local Government Information Unit) is a think tank and membership association, with c200 local authorities and other organisations subscribing to its services. LGiU’s mission is to strengthen local democracy to put citizens in control of their own lives, communities and services. LGiU is a registered charity run by its members for its members.
LGiU works with NDPBs, NGOs, and private and voluntary sector partners, as well as councils: providing briefings on emerging national and regional policy, publishing its own policy reports and recommendations, and seeking to influence decision-makers and policy teams locally, regionally and centrally.